Levada das 25 Fontes is one of the most popular hikes in all of Madeira. The hike is called 25 Fontes because of the many springs or waterfalls that can be found along the way and also at the finish of the hike. The highlight and destination of the levada is the 25 Fontes waterfall at the end of the trail. An additional highlight of this hike is the Risco waterfall, which you can admire directly from different positions. Because of its popularity, there are always a lot of tourists here. We tell you how you can avoid the tourist crowds and how you can see the Risco waterfall from a much better perspective.
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Levada das 25 Fontes | Arrival & Parking
The start of both hikes (official & alternative route) is in Rabaçal, a nature reserve in the south of Madeira. Some hikes start from here, that’s why there is a huge free parking lot here, but it is also correspondingly crowded. Even in the early morning, the parking lot is already quite full. But you should still be able to find a free parking space. You can find the parking lot here (Google Maps).
Hike to the Levada das 25 Fontes
The Levada das 25 Fontes is one of the most hiked levadas on Madeira. Accordingly it is crowded here. But there is a possibility to avoid the crowds at least a little bit by walking half of the way on another levada. You are not only almost alone on the road, but this path is in my opinion even the more beautiful way. But let´s talk about the official route first.
Official Route | The Facts
Length and Duration of the Hike
If you walk the official route, you will walk about 11 kilometers and it will take you 3-4 hours. You will walk the same way there and back, it is not a circular route.
Difficulty Level and Altitude Difference
The trails of Levada 25 Fontes are well maintained and very good and safe to walk. There is about 350 meters of elevation gain to overcome, which makes the hike overall rather moderate.
Untouristic Alternative Route (Lagoa do Vento)
If you want to avoid the tourist crowds, you can take an alternative route. You will then take the trail to Lagoa do Vento, which first goes along the Levada do Alecrim, which starts at the same parking lot as all the other hikes.
Instead of going down the service road, keep to the right and follow the trail and the levada. From there you can’t miss the right path. After you have seen the Risco waterfall from above, descend to the Rabacal refuge. There the two trails cross and you change to the official 25 Fontes trail. You walk to the 25 Fontes waterfall and back to the refuge. Then you could follow the much easier 25 Fontes trail back to the parking lot or take the Lagoa do Vento route again, which leads you lonely and alone through a dense forest. But here you have to overcome a steep slope at the end.
In the following graphic I have put both hikes on top of each other for a better overview. You can see the official 25 Fontes hike in green and the Lagoa do Vento route in orange. You start at the official parking lot (1) and walk the trail Lagoa do Vento along the Levada do Alecrim. At the Rabacal refuge, the two trails cross (2) and you walk to the 25 Fontes waterfall (3) and back. Then you can take the green trail (easy) or the orange trail (difficult) back.
The advantages of combining the two trails are:
- hardly any other tourists on most of the route
- you get a few viewpoints in addition
- You see the Risco from above and look down on the other hikers
Length and Duration of the Hike
By combining the two levadas you walk a total of 12 kilometers on a circular route and will be on the road for 4-5 hours. I needed just under 4.5 hours, but was also relatively fast on the road, if you disregard the few drone breaks in between.
Difficulty Level and Altitude Difference
If you combine the two trails, you will benefit from fewer other tourists, but you will change a rather easy hike into a rather difficult one. Especially the last slope just before you get back to the road is really tough and not for people with knee problems.
Levada das 25 Fontes & Risco Waterfall | What to expect
If you take the alternative route like me, you start at the big parking lot and turn right into the Levada do Alecrim. Here you will probably hardly meet other tourists. At the beginning the path is a bit unspectacular. You walk along the levada and unfortunately have relatively little view of the green valley, because the path is already quite overgrown. Then it goes downhill and you pass 2 beautiful viewpoints from which you have a wonderful view of the valley.
After that you walk a lot through the dense forest and soon you come to the Risco waterfall. The Risco waterfall consists of several steps and you stand at a small pond between the upper and the lower step. This looks quite nice. But what really looks cool is the view from the waterfall down. You have to go downhill for a few meters (and watch out on the slippery stones) and then you can look down about 100 meters to the official Risco viewing platform of the 25 Fontes hiking trail. A super spectacular view.
From there you continue walking until you reach the Rabacal refuge. There the Lagoa do Vento trail crosses the 25 Fontes trail. You switch trails, so to speak, and walk towards the 25 Fontes waterfall. You’ll notice that it gets a lot more crowded here and you’re almost in a traffic jam in narrow or steep places. It reminded us a bit of our Trolltunga hike in Norway.
After about 2 kilometers you will come to a crossroads where, after about 800 meters, you will come to the Risco viewing platform that you saw from above earlier. If you follow the path instead, you will continue in the direction of 25 Fontes. You follow the levada and the path is quite idyllic. Ferns grow everywhere, the stones are covered with green moss and deep branches hang over the path. Sometimes the path is so narrow that 2 people can’t walk side by side.
If you have oncoming traffic you have to wait and let the others pass first. After about 2 more kilometers you will arrive at your destination, the 25 Fontes waterfall. It is a small gorge that looks like a small amphitheater. On the green moss covered wall around you, small streams of water flow down everywhere. A wonderful spectacle that you can watch from many different perspectives. Unfortunately, you will not be alone here.
When you’ve had your fill, head back the same way to the Rabacal refuge, which also has a small café. You can then either go back the normal 25 Fontes trail, which is relatively easy. Or you can follow the Lagoa do Vento trail like I did, where you will probably hike in solitary silence. You walk through lush green forest and have to overcome an extremely steep incline at the end before you arrive back at the road. Here it goes uphill for another 800 meters before you arrive back at the parking lot.
The hike really cost me strength, also because it rained heavily most of the time. Despite the bad weather, it was very crowded on the official 25 Fontes route and I was very happy to have walked most of the time on the more strenuous, but much quieter alternative route.
Do you have any questions about the Levada dos 25 Fontes hike or just want to leave a comment? Go ahead, we love to hear from you.